Google Wi-Fi could soon connect again in Mountain View

Approval by the city council later this month could re-establish free Wi-Fi in Google's hometown

Castro Street in Mountain View, California

Castro Street in Mountain View, California

Residents of Google's hometown could soon be connecting to the Internet again via a free, citywide Wi-Fi network.

Google and the city of Mountain View are close to agreement on a new deal that would see the current network upgraded to support the higher volume of data now being exchanged among mobile devices.

"Contract details have been agreed," said Shonda Ranson, Mountain View's communications coordinator.

The new contract, details of which are not currently available, is due to be presented to the city council for a vote later this month.

If approved, it will pave the way for work to begin on replacing or upgrading the network.

The Google Wi-Fi network was first launched in the California city in August 2006 and became one of the first free, public Wi-Fi networks in the U.S.

The city's busy downtown, business areas and residential blocks were blanketed with the signal under a five-year deal. That deal was extended in 2011 for a further five years until January 2016.

It served the city well for years, but in late 2012 a drop in service quality prompted numerous complaints from residents. A test of the network by the IDG News Service at numerous points across the city in August 2013 resulted in total failure to get a working Internet connection.

The problems have been blamed on the greater data needs of smartphones and tablet PCs and the system's inability to keep up.

Whatever the cause, the result is that residents who were promised a free, citywide network have been left with a choice between poor connectivity or paying for their own access. The city too began installing a second public Wi-Fi network in City Hall and the main library because the Google service wasn't working.

The Wi-Fi network attracted headlines when it was first installed as a potential model for future municipal Wi-Fi service. Google didn't launch additional citywide services but is due to begin providing Wi-Fi at Starbucks coffee shops this year and in public parks in San Francisco. It has also launched fiber Internet service in Kansas City and Provo, Utah.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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